Is Fast Food Ever Okay?

Can you eat fast food and still lose weight? Or, if you are just working on eating healthy food to maintain a certain weight, can you still eat fast food?

Well, I think that depends on how you are looking at fast food. When I was morbidly obese, fast food was my friend. I loved swinging through the drive-thru window of my current favorite fast food restaurant, just anticipating the aroma, taste, and feelings of satisfaction that would come from the meal I was about to eat. I never minded handing over $4 or $5 dollars for high fat sandwiches, large greasy french fries, and sugar laden cokes. But of course I didn’t think about the food in those unflattering terms! I thought of the food in glowing terms like juicy delicious sandwiches, crisp hot fries, and refreshing cold drinks. And I never thought of fast food as evil!

During the 14 months it took me to lose my weight, I still ate at fast food restaurants. But although I did still visit them, I greatly cut back on the frequency. Instead of swinging through a drive-thru restaurant for a treat right after eating lunch at home,  I actually planned to eat the occasional lunch or dinner at the restaurant. Oftentimes, having a meal with a friend at a fast food establishment was a way to visit with that friend without spending $10 or more on lunch.

In order to eat fast food without bingeing or eating 1000 calories for lunch, I needed to change my attitude towards the meal. I stopped looking at that lunch out as a special treat, or as my “last meal on earth.” Rather, I looked at the fast food meal in two ways:

  • a meal to be enjoyed
  • another opportunity to practice making good choices

It’s definitely not always easy to make good choices at fast food restaurants, but it is a lot easier today that it was 12 years ago. Back then, finding a grilled chicken sandwich on the menu was an anomaly, not a standard choice. But I did the best I could, ordering small meals, forgoing fries, and having water instead of colas.

So even though the restaurants hadn’t changed the kinds of foods they were serving, I had changed my attitude towards their food. It still tasted good, still filled me up, but no longer over-filled me!

Can you handle the occasional fast food meal that is sure to come your way? Yes you can. You can handle it by having a firm plan in place before you even get to the restaurant. Do some research on which selections are healthiest at the fast food restaurants you most often frequent. You may be surprised by how many calories/fat are in your favorite choices. Here’s one that surprised me recently:

Out of all the “classic” choices at Chick-Fil-a, the one with the most calories wasn’t the fried Chicken Sandwich (430), but rather the Chicken Salad Sandwich (500). I could have certainly seen myself in my obese days choosing the chicken salad sandwich because after all, it had the word “salad” in it so it must be healthier! But in actuality, it’s not. (Not that either is a great choice, but you see my point.)

I’d encourage you to take time to print out the nutritional data of your favorite fast food restaurants, and stick it in the glove compartment of your car. Next time you are caught out without a plan, or have a lunch date, pull your cheat sheet out and make a good, informed choice.

So, is fast food really evil? No, not really. Is it impossible to eat without gaining weight? No, not at all. But, it is possible to make the wrong choices at fast food restaurants – not only is it possible, but it is downright easy. 

What’s your take on fast food?  Do you eat it or not? How often? Different choices these days?  Diane

By the way: Jenn at Slim-Shopping was kind enough to do an interview with me for a new series she is starting. Thanks Jenn!

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